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What is a Switch Bill of Lading and when and why is it used..??

The world of shipping and freight is very dynamic and several changes happen in the course of processing a shipment..

Destinations can change, routing can change, cargo release parties can change and even important documents such as the Bill of Lading may be subjected to changes..

Some may be simple amendments, but in some cases, customers may request for the issuance of a Switch Bill of Lading.. This article clarifies what is a Switch Bill of Lading and when and why is it used..

Before we look at what is a switch bill of lading, let’s review the types of bills of lading and how these are issued..

There are only 3 ways in which a bill of lading may be issued

1) A B/L issued in Original(s) to a “named” consignee is referred to as a “Straight B/L”.. A straight B/L is a NON-NEGOTIABLE & NON-TRANSFERABLE DOCUMENT..

2) A B/L issued to a “named” consignee without any originals, is considered a “Sea Waybill“.. This B/L is also a NON-NEGOTIABLE & NON-TRANSFERABLE DOCUMENT..

3) A B/L is issued in Original(s) and consigned “TO ORDER” or “TO ORDER OF SHIPPER” or “TO ORDER OF XYZ BANK” is termed as “Negotiable B/L or Order Bill“..

A bill of lading has 3 functions as below and each of the above types of bill of lading fulfils one or more of these functions..

  1. Evidence of Contract of Carriage
  2. Receipt of Goods and
  3. Document of Title to the goods

What is a Switch Bill of Lading..??

A “Switch” bill of lading is NOT another type of Bill of Lading..

A Switch Bill of Lading is simply the second set of bills of lading that may be issued by the carrier or their agent “in exchange for” or “substituting” the full first set of bills of lading originally issued when the shipment was effected..

The KEYWORD here is “in exchange for” or “substituting“.. This clearly implies that the second set of bills of lading cannot be issued while the full first set is still in circulation and active..

Why do customers require a Switch bill of lading..??

Switch bills of lading may be requested or required for a few different reasons..

  • When there has been a change in the original trading conditions ;
  • Goods have been resold (probably high-seas sale) and the discharge port has now changed to another port ;
  • The seller (who could be an intending agent) does not wish the name of the actual exporter to be known to the consignee in case the consignee strikes a deal with the exporter directly ;
  • The seller does not want the buyer to know the actual country of origin of the cargo so he requests that the port of loading be shown as some port other than the one the cargo was loaded from..

What can and cannot be changed in a Switch Bill of Lading..??

In my view, the only area that is allowed to be changed in the switch bill of lading is the shipper, consignee, and notify party information which is usually displayed in what I term as Part 1 of the bill of lading..

TT Club however considers that the below additional elements/information can be changed, provided that the new information is true and correct and does not affect the carriage and delivery..

  • the shipper’s description of the goods;
  • the name of the ship (if necessary);
  • the place and date of issue of the bill of lading;
  • the freight and the port of discharge

The Club suggests that written confirmation should be obtained from the client who is requesting the switch, setting out the requirements for the new bill of lading in detail..

Where the changes in the details of the cargo are significant, evidence to support the changes, and an indemnity from the client should be sought to protect the issuer in the event of a dispute with the consignee..

The below details should never be allowed to be changed in a Switch Bill of Lading

  • place and date of shipment as changing this could affect the terms of delivery based on the sales contract
  • details of cargo including the number of packages, dimensions, weight, and measurement
  • hazardous cargo information if any (remember cargo is already on board based on original hazardous cargo declaration)
  • reefer cargo information such as temperature setting, humidity settings etc (remember cargo is already on board based on original cargo declaration)
  • OOG Cargo information if any (remember cargo is already on board based on original OOG details declared including lost slots calculation etc)
  • none of the original clauses on the bill of lading

Where can a bill of lading be switched and who can request the carrier to issue a switch bill of lading..??

Depending on the carrier, a bill of lading may be switched anywhere in the world as long as they have offices or agents..

For example in a shipment from New York to Antwerp, the bill of lading may be switched in London as long as the carrier in question has offices or agents in London.. It is normal that a switch bill of lading may be requested at a location that may not be on the route of the cargo..

Is the issuance of a Switch Bill of Lading legal..??

Switch Bill of Lading Fraud - Shipping and Freight Resource

There is no ruling that says specifically that issuance of a switch bill of lading is illegal (unless there is willful intent to commit fraud)..

However, it seems to be the concerted view of almost all insurance companies, that a switch bill of lading issued with any misrepresentation or information contrary to the first set issued, without the express acceptance and understanding of the buyer is a fraudulent document..

To protect themselves from any possible claims, the carrier/agent has to ensure that

  1. They are covered by their insurance for the issuance of such switch bills of lading and they provide their insurance company with the exact reason for the issuance..
  2. They need to ensure that the bill of lading is switched before the handover of cargo and also that the person or entity requesting the switch bill is authorized to make the request..
  3. If a negotiable bill is issued, generally the shipper on the bill of lading has the right to request for the switch bill of lading, but only before the endorsement to the next party or delivery of the goods..
  4. All issued originals from the first set of bills must be returned to the carrier, and canceled before the bill is switched and a second set is issued..
  5. Point 4 is perhaps the most important point for the carrier to note and ensure as this is the only way to guarantee that no other originals are floating around for the same shipment.. The dangers of two sets of original bills in circulation for the same cargo are many..
  6. If the first set of originals are issued as Order or Negotiable bills and those are endorsed at the time of switching, the carrier must ensure that the party making the request is the last authentic endorsee in the chain and has rights to its further disposal..
  7. A carrier’s agent should never issue a switch bill of lading of their own volition based on the request of the customer and must always issue it only with the written authority of the principal (carrier)..
  8. The switched set should not contain any information different from that of the first set of bill of lading, (like an incorrect port of loading, or change in the condition and quantity of the cargo)..
  9. If switch bills contain any misrepresentations, the carrier/agent will be at risk of claims from parties who have suffered a loss because of such misrepresentations..
  10. If the agent has been asked by the principal to issue the switch bill of lading based on an indemnity from the customer, the agent should ensure to get the wording format from the principal and get the completed indemnity approved by the principal before issuing the switch bill of lading..

Article republished after critical updates


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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


  1. Hello Sir,
    Thank you for the detailed information. I have a question. Is there any restriction where switch bill of lading cannot be issued for LCL cargo and can only be issued for FCL shipments.

    • Hi Venkat, not particularly, but LCL maybe a bit more tricky as “generally” there could be a consolidator involved which means there could be a HBL involved as well and the HBL issuer may not have offices/options to switch a bill of lading in many areas compared to a carrier..

  2. Hi @hariesh, thank you for the thoughtful article.
    We use switch BL’s to prevent circumvention. Everything is from Asia to USA, my question is re: ISF filing
    First BL– Factory: Agent
    Second BL– Agent: Importer
    We have PKL and INV for these, nothing changes except “Shipper” “Cnee” and invoice cost (including agent Margin)
    >>Is it ok to file ISF based on second BL? The idea is to keep off of panjiva and the tracking websites

  3. Do I need to switch BL or there are better options for following scenario?
    Supplier from China, agent in UK and buyers in India. China shipped good straight to India. China send invoice to UK, UK company pays to China. UK company send invoice to India with commission. China send all document including BL with exporter details as UK company direct to India. No secrecy is required at any end. Is it possible? is there any better option? Do I need to switch BL? Thank you

  4. Hi! I have question.

    My trading company is based in Belgium, I have a commodities supplier from Egypt and a buyer from Houston, and I want to ship the good direclty from my supplier in Egypt to my buyer in Houston.

    Is it possible to make a BL without that my supplier and buyer see each others names for commercials reasons?t

    Do I have to tell my supplier to ship to Houston and put my trading company as consignee?, then after my Egyptian issued the original doc’s, I switch them underway with my buyer as cosignee and my company as shipper, ?.

    Is that possible, ?

    Many thanks for the reaction.

  5. Hi Sir.

    I need to have clarification on the Switch BL as under.

    Quote” You have mentioned that the quantity and description of the goods cannot be changed in the switched BL” Unquote

    I am importing shipment in bulk and then during the transit I am reselling the said items to number of people for different quantities who would collect the items from the destination port. In this scenario, I am not changing place of loading or the destination port. Whether if I surrender my original BL, can shipping agency issue multiple switched BL for different quantities? . Would like to hear from you at the earliest

  6. Hello Hariesh

    we are buying goods in UK with origin in Thailand and would like to have them shipped to Belgium. Originally the BOL documents are towards UK, but after pickup at the supplier, they need to be changed to Belgium. is this a problem?

    all transport arrangements are managed by our UK partner and a UK transport office.

    many yhanks

  7. Hello My question is How to execute an import shipment if buyer is india and the consignee is indonesia and how the BOE will close the bank payment.

  8. Hello, Hariesh. Thank you for your article. It was very enlightening. Can you just clarify a point for me please? Is it possible to switch from a SWB to a straight BL or the other way around? Thank you for your time.

  9. Hi Hariesh

    Thanks a ton for all the patience and clarifications in reverting to so many queries and it helps a lot in clearing our understanding
    We are a Singapore based company and our supplier is in India and our customer in Vietnam. We export from India to VN using switch BL wherein the only thing that changes in the switch BL is change of shipper name from Indian supplier to our Singapore Company. Since there is no need for secrecy, VN customer remains same in both the cases
    Now our VN customer needs a Made in India Certificate of Origin (CO). The CO can be applied only by the supplier through the Indian Merchants Chamber of Commerce. If supplier applies, will the Certificate of origin be issued by the Chamber of commerce based on surrender BL ?

  10. hi
    we are shipper say M in India. we have shipped goods to buyer say W and they will get the BL switched at Rotterdam. Now buyer wants us to mention place of issue on OBL as Rotterdam. is this possible and what will be the effects.


  12. Hello,
    Firstly, I want to thank you for the informative article that you have provided here.
    Secondly, I would like to ask some questions regarding the shipping documents and if you could help me I would really be grateful.
    We are a trading company that imports goods from a foreign country to our own country to sell in domestic market, we are doing this easily and professionally, without any particular problem.
    Now, one of our customers in our own country would like to do the import by himself and now we are in a situation that we don’t want to expose our source in foreign country, also we don’t want to expose our domestic customer’s name to our source company.
    So, we wanted to know if it is possible that we purchase the goods from our source company and then somehow change all of the documents (including BL, Phytosanitary certificate, Certificate of origin and etc.) so there is no name of the source company anywhere in new documents and also the consignee of the cargo to be our own customer?
    I remind that our customer does not want to buy domestically from us and he wants to do the import and customs clearance by himself with his own company, so it is essential that the cargo documents shows him as the consignee of the cargo.
    If anyone can help us with this question and shows us a way to do this we would be very grateful.
    Thank you all

    • Simple answer, “no”. Beware of your customer trying to be sneaky to find out who your supplier is. And no, you cannot replace the phytosanitary certificate issued by the government quarantine authority of the exporting country.

  13. Hello mr. Haresh,

    I have a doubt. We are a freight forwarding company in Dubai. Our customer sits in USA.
    Now we have a query, we have a tri angular shipment. We have a US customer who is buying from a Saudi trader. The terms between actual shipper and Saudi trader is : FOB Shenzhen, and the terms between US customer and Saudi customer is also FOB Shenzhen.

    Now the question is, there is a cargo ready to be shipped. The US customer paid the saudi trader for the goods and shipper also received payment from trader already.

    Can we issue MBL as, our agents in HKG as shipper and our customers clearing agent as consignee in MBL and notify as actual our customer in USA.

    But, the US customer, do not want his details to be known to the actual shipper in HKG . Can we issue a switch HBL , showing our company as shipper and consignee as actual customer in USA?

    If possible, how do we file AMS in HKG?
    Please help me.


  14. We are from India. Our customer is in Vietnam. Our supplier is in China. Wish to ship directly from China to Vietnam. Never done Switch B/L before & looking to do it now for the first time. My forwarding agent says that from India we can issue the following – Invoice, Packing List, Switched new B/L, New Insurance & Certificate of Origin from our local Indian chamber. Thereby the buyer in Vietnam will not see who sold it from China & also the Chinese invoice & price will not be known to the buyer. However the forwarding agent says that they will come to know that the goods originated from China (though they wont know who the manufacturer in China was). Is this true? And is there any way to completely avoid the end buyer from knowing which country the goods originated from? Pls assist & advise. What we are looking to do is simple trading without any information of the buyer & original manufacturer getting across to either side. TIA!

    • Hi Charlie, legally there is no real way to hide there as there are a lot of documents and paper trail that can show the origin of the country.. A simple customs documentation will clearly show the origin of the goods..

  15. Hi Hariesh

    Assuming myself is a Malaysia registered company, my supplier from India and my customer is in China.

    I’m getting my goods shipped out from India Port by supplier, destination CIF China

    Is it possible:
    – To indicate myself as consignee
    – Do B/L switch once I got the original B/L (or Telex BL)
    – Get my shipper to liase with supplier shipper for the B/L or do I contact the supplier shipper directly for the switch?


  16. Hi Hariesh

    I have a question on the technicalities of BL switch.

    Assuming I’m based in Malaysia, my supplier in India, and my buyer in China,
    The supplier is shipping the goods out under CIF China.

    However, I want to hide identity of my buyer on the shipping documents.

    Is it possible;
    – Indicate myself consignee (Malaysia registered company) on the B/L
    – do a B/L switch once I goe the B/L
    – I give instruction my own shipper to liase with supplier’s shipper to liase B/L?


  17. Hi Hariesh,

    Its Toufeeq , i have 2 questions

    How can i show different country of Origin for my products . As we know coo is necessary document . For eg . i(Actual shipper, A ) from india gets an order for Rugs from the buyer based in Newyork (B) . This is the actual buyer . But the Rugs i want to deliver from china which is (C). Now i want to deliver the goods directly from china to newyork. How can shipper show coo of india as we know goods are from china origin.

    In point no. 8 you have mentioned

    The switched set should not contain any information different to that of the first set of bill of lading, (like an incorrect port of loading, or change in the condition and quantity of the cargo).

    Please clear this doubt .


  18. hi, we are importing goods from ho chi minh port – vietnam to Istanbul- turkey, but we don’t want to share customer details with shipper/producer is it possible that we receive OBL in jeddah-saudi arabia and ask line office to change consignee and notify party details and surrender and reprint.

  19. Dear sir
    One of our customer wants to switch the bl in Singapore and shipper willl remain the same as 1st bl. They want to change consignee only. Is it permissible ?

  20. HI Hariesh

    i am from Dubai . for one of our client have a shipment from China to Dhamam port KSA. But shipper need to mention port of load as jebel ali (Dubai) in final BL. Can you please give the possible way to do this with same container?

  21. Hi Hariesh, I have a question if i am the consignee in the original BL located in india importing goods from China i wish sell this on high seas sale to my buyer who is also from india. so in this case can i switch the BL?
    I short i want to know can a BL be switched if seller and buyer is from the same country


  22. Hi Hariesh,
    Recently we book a contract to buy ex work from seller in Europe. However, shipment got delay, as different understanding of incoterm definition. Seller does not want to issue POA to our broker to do export clearance and does not want an export recorded to their name. Seller also refuse to put their name as shipper. As we do not have our entity at Seller/Origin country, we can not export this.

    My question:
    1. In Ex Work term for export, who should be the exporter?
    2. If Exporter does not want to be the Shipper in the BL, can we do Switch BL?

    Thanks for your help and sharing of experience

  23. In House B/L, the consignee, shipper and notify can be changed by freight forwarder. If that is so why is Switch B/L required. Can you please explain?

    • Hi Ramachandran, a House Bill makes reference to a Master Bill in any customs filing, is issued by two different entities and therefore two different sets of bills for same container is possible.. A Switch bill is issued by the same entity with the same bill of lading number in “exchange” for the first bill, so there can be only one set of bills at any time..

  24. I ‘m a bit confused and may have mis understood but in point 8 it is indicated that the port of loading must be accurate but elsewhere it appears to suggest that one of the reasons as to why a switch B/L would be considered would be to make it appear that the goods have been loaded in the middleman’s country? (‘ The seller does not want to know the buyer to know the actual country of origin of the cargo so he requests that the port of loading be shown as some port other than the one the cargo was loaded from..”)

    • Hi Abrar, yes one of the reasons why clients “apply” for switch bill is to hide the original port of load.. However, it does not mean that the shipping line should accept this application as it would then contravene their terms with the insurers as it would be a misrepresentation to show a different port of load.. Trust this clarifies..

  25. Hi Hariesh,

    Your blog has always been very much useful & up to date for us.
    Suggesting to let us have an article about Hitch Bill of ladings as well.

  26. i am the original shipper of the goods and i mistakenly allow to switch the bl while my buyer still dont make payment.

    on the carrier system, bl is already updated as switched and 1st leg is surrendered. the vessel already arrived the destination but my buyer still dont pay me.
    how can i take back my cargo in this case?

    1st leg bl – shipper: A
    cnee : to order
    notify: B

    2nd leg bl – shipper: B
    cnee/notify: C

    *note – since 1st leg bl is surrendered and bl alr switched. i hold the original switch bl..

    • Hi , depending on the country, the consignee as per 2nd bill can claim the goods from POD without original bill.. So I would suggest you speak with the shipping line who switched the bill and see if they can reverse it especially since you have all the originals..

    • Dear Mary,

      A “To Order” B/L means To The Order of Shipper & it cannot be switched in principle.
      Way out is the same is endorsed by the Shipper (Who does this only after receipt of his payments) & handed over to the carrier who can then issue a 2nd set of B/L’s namely Switch B/L .
      There is no future recourse in case the Shipper is not paid because he has endorsed the B/L & handed over to the carrier.

      Hope the same clarifies.

  27. Dear Mr.Hariesh,

    Pls advise whether bill of lading can be switched twice ?

    Meaning, first bl switched in one country and again same bl switching in another country..

    Seeking your kind guidence.



  28. Hi Harish

    We are trading company in India. Can we get a switch BL as per the below and make invoices also. We dont want to show the actual shipper name to consignee.
    A – Manufacturer (India) , B – Trading company (India), C – Buyer (Europe)
    1st BL – Shipper is A & Consignee is B or Shipper is A & Consignee is C
    2nd BL – Shipper is B & Consignee is C
    What should be the shipper name in Certificate of origin & REX declaration (GSP)

  29. Dear Mr. Hariesh,
    Can we hide Pol , bcz as per LC term we have to move goods from Europe and Dubai but some accessories of goods are not available ,so I decided to move them from China , so is there any possibility to hide Pol .?

  30. The seller does not want to know the buyer to know the actual country of origin of the cargo so he requests that the port of loading be shown as some port other than the one the cargo was loaded from..

    Is the above right ? generally most liners got option to change only the Shipper/ Consignee/ Notify only. Generally POL/POD are never changed in second leg B/L. Correct me if I am wrong. Thanks

  31. Hello Hariesh,
    Accept my appreciation for the great service you’re rendering out there.
    I once submitted a query but I haven’t got your reply yet. Permit me submit this query again please.
    My company (A) is a trading company based in Thailand. Our supplier (B) is also based in Thailand. My end customer (C) is based in Ghana.

    “A” just arranged to sell a product to “C” based on CIF Tema Ghana valued at say USD100. “A” has negotiated to buy same product from the actual supplier “B” based on CIF Tema Ghana Valued at say USD90.
    “A” will like to conceal the actual price and supplier, from “C” and also won’t want the actual supplier “B” to know the end customer “B”.

    “A” was hoping to switch B/L, but “B” says they’re registered under Thailand’s Board Of Investment project and one of the conditions is that, they (B) can’t raise PI, CI,PL, B/L etc in the name of a company based in Thailand and thus that since we (A) are based in Thailand, they can’t raise PI, CI, PL,B/L etc for fear of breaking one of the terms in their agreement with Thai Gov’t. They thus advised us to give them the name of a company whether our sister’s company or any company of our choice so they can issue these commercial docs in their name and we can then switch them. Following their scenario, may we proceed as follows;
    1st sets of B/L, CI, PL, BL, CO etc: Shipper = B and Consignee & Notify party = D (D is a foreign company we’ll propose to actual supplier (B) as he requested)
    2nd sets of B/L, CI, PL, BL, CO etc: Shipper = D, Consignee = A, Notify party = C
    3rd sets of B/L, CI, PL, BL, CO etc: Shipper = A, Consignee = C, Notify party = C.

    My specific concerns are as below;
    1. Please advise if using the above 3 steps, we can successfully hide from our end customer (C), the actual price we (A) purchased the product and also prevent the actual supplier (B) from knowing our end customer (C) and vice versa.
    2. Is there any legal implication in this?
    3. Can our end customer cleared the products without any trouble originating from the double switching?
    4. Is there another method you could advise us to use in this case as I explained above?

    Thank you in advance for your support and my apology if my write up is long.

    Hope I can have your kind advice this time!

    Sincerely yours reader.

  32. Hello Hariesh ,thanks for your very informative information. I am an international trade broker from Sydney, Australia. My client/exporter is from China and my client/importer is from India. The Chinese exporter is paying for shipping to India CIF, so they of course will be using there own freight forwarding company. When im negotiating the deal with the exporter in China should I tell them I require a switch bill of lading from them? I just need to know how I can receive the switch bill of lading so I can change the shipper/exporter as myself and change the consignee to buyer/importer in India ? Who should I ask for switched bill of lading and who would supply the switch bill to me? Thanks again for your help Hariesh. Much appreciated.

  33. Hi, I am new entrepreneur, I am starting business of trading & based in Mumbai India. my first order is triangular shipment. My supplier is based in China & my customer in srilanka. How can i arrange for this shipment directly from China to Srilanka.
    My Customer asked for Certificate of origin as well.

    Can its possible I should ask supplier to route the shipment through India & then i can made fresh B/L showing product is of Indian Origin & port of loading Indian Port & can arrange certificate of origin from India.

    Can you suggest suitable way to do shipment to avoid manufacturer name?
    My email Id is

  34. Hello

    We are just doing a switch bill of lading. We understand that all info must be same as on the 1 set of bills, except changing the shipper / consignee.


    What about other info, such as invoice nr., export nr. etc. provided on the first set of the bill from manufacturer. Can we change and delete this?

    Content and everything else is the same

    Thank you

  35. Hi Hariesh,

    In your article about the Switch BL it is written that one of the reasons why a switch BL is needed is when “The seller does not want to know the buyer to know the actual country of origin of the cargo so he requests that the port of loading be shown as some port other than the one the cargo was loaded from”.
    We are a European exporting company whose client is an Asian trader who requests a switch BL exactly for this reason. They need not to disclose the European origin of the goods to the final customer (which is not a problem for us as a shipper).
    In the comments here though, you have more than once written that POL cannot be changed in the switch BL.
    So please, let me know what kind of Switch BL do we need to request – HBL or MBL marked switch BL in Singapore, so that our client (the trader company) can request the following changes in Singapore – new consignee in an Asian country + new POL (a non-European one). And is the Switch Bill of Lading the solution to our problem at all?

    • Hello Tracy.. A switch bill of lading should not show a different POL than where it is actually loaded from.. Line’s issuing a Switch Bill of Lading with a POL different to the actual POL are doing so at their own risk..

      For your issue has your Asian trader tried the option of switching the bill just changing the shipper but leaving POL same.. Are you the only shipper shipping that particular cargo out of that POL..?? Can your consignee identify you as the shipper by just looking at the POL..??

  36. Hi Hariesh,

    This article was very helpful, thank you.

    I have a question:

    I import goods from S.Korea into the USA. I want to conceal the identity of the CONSIGNEE (my company) because I don’t want my competitors in the USA use services like Import Genius search my company’s name and see who, where, how often etc.. I’m importing these goods into the USA.

    Would a Switch BL work in this situation? I’m not sure how companies like Import Genius gets their data but seems like if you pay, you can find out all your competition’s suppliers etc…(I know b/c I’ve used them before).

    Thank you in advance!


  37. Need your input on below query:

    1. Company A is Company B’s foreign subsidiary in India.

    2. Company A doesn’t have any local warehouse or IEC code in India.

    3. Company C is Company B’s distributor in India.

    Is the below scenario possible:

    C places order to A. In turn A places order to B. B ships out the goods to C and C clears the goods in its name.

    Company A acts only as a mediator in this.

  38. Hello,

    We own a Cypriot company (C) through which we wish to sell Chinese products of Manufacturer (M) to our Greek customer (G).We would like to conceal our manufacturer/supplier from our customer and vice versa. Our transport agent is a Greek company with a partner in China.Whom are we going to notify to take care the switch bill of lading to avoid any problems? Is this legal in Greek territory? Do you know any reliable transport agent active in our area able to help us? Our transport agent is not acquaintant with these methods.Will the Chinese forwarder -they cooperate with- will know?Do you have any further suggestions on how to move safely?

    I will appreciate your reply.

    BR, G.

    • Hello G, you can take a House Bill of Lading which shows YOUR COMPANY (C) as shipper and YOUR GREEK CUSTOMER (G) as consignee and your Greek Agent as notify.. Your chinese agent should give the chinese shipper this bill of lading so there is no reference to YOUR ACTUAL SUPPLIER (M) anywhere.. On the Master Bill of Lading YOUR CHINESE AGENT will be Shipper, YOUR GREEK AGENT will be Consginee and YOU will be notify..

      But as much as this hides the information, there are several other documents like Certificate of Origin, Commercial Invoice, Packing List etc that MAY show your actual manufacturer’s information, so be aware of that..

  39. thanks Hariesh

    then your previous comment: but would finally and eventually depend on the entity whose bill of lading is being issued (HBL or MBL)..

    i cannot understand how can the issuing entity still decide. what can they decide if it is missdeclaration?

  40. Hi Hariesh,

    Still not clear about changing the POL, sorry.

    So if it is a HBL Switch BL it can be changed but if it is a MBL Switch BL not? what does it depend on to be able to change the POL?

  41. Hi just a question. How should i go about doing the following:

    My company will be engaging in a business of trading goods and the vendor will be located in the same country where my business office is located or in a different country. I do not want my vendor (supplier) to know who my client is as I do not want my supplier to directly contact the customer or vice versa, bypassing me. If I trade with my customer and agree on L/C payment then one of the most important document is the bill of lading. i do not want my customer to know who my supplier is. How should i draft the bill of lading especially when i want to utilise the service of my supplier for providing the goods on FOB basis?
    Who would be the consingee in this case especially when i do not want my supplier to know about the name and location of the customer?

  42. Hi Hariesh,

    thanks for this article very interesting. I have a couple of questions:

    – You state “The seller doesn’t want the buyer to know the actual country of origin of the cargo so he requests that the port of loading shown is other than the one the cargo was loaded from”. however you also said “the switched set should not contain any information different to that of the original bill of lading, like incorrect port of loading…”. so can we change POL and POD in the switch BL or not?

    – I have seen that Switch BL can also be issued if there are multiple suppliers and the buyer wishes to consolidate and trade them as a single cargo. then how is shipper shown? as multiple suppliers? and it this legal? wouldn’t it be missdeclaring?

    Thanks in advance,

    • Hello Nina, it is the “wish” of the shipper to change the POL in the switch bill, but the POL is NOT allowed to be changed in the switch bill.. That is misdeclaration, but would finally and eventually depend on the entity whose bill of lading is being issued (HBL or MBL)..

      There cannot be multiple shippers in a bill of lading.. There can only be one..

  43. I handled one triangle tarde shipment in this month. Acutually we do not use Swith B/L for the reason that the carrier refuse to do it. It is complicated and costs some fees to handle. We use different shipper+consignee for Master B/L and House B/L to solve this problem.

    For example, there are 3 roles in triangle trade: manufacturer(A), trading agent(B), actual buyer(C).
    Master B/L: trading agent(B), actual buyer(C)
    House B/L: manufacturer(A), trading agent(B)

    The key point is the carrier should be ok for you to use a foreign company as the shipper in your country. By the way, I am China. It is ok to do so.

    • Echo, do you mean that a foreign (non Chinese) company can show up in the BL as the shipper?

      In my case, there’s no trading agent.
      We are importers from Argentina and we have many suppliers in mainland China. Because of absurd rules and controls on our side, we’d like to unify all orders into one single shipper.

      What would be the easiest way to do it?
      Opening a trading company in HK or somewhere else, perhaps?
      Using one supplier of trust to act as the single shipper?
      Or there is a simpler way..?

    • Hello Echo,

      Your method sounds less burdensome. May you please advise what becomes of other commercial documents such as; Commercial Invoice, Packing list, Certificate of origin?
      Are these docs also modified to carry the name of the trading company (B) as the shipper and actual buyer (C) as consignee in order to conceal the name of the manufacturer (A)?

      Please you can send me reply via;

      Thank you in advance for your support!
      God blesses you!

  44. In a triangular shipment, if it is not necessary to use a switch BL (the name of the manufacturer is not information you wish to hide from the consignee), then who would prepare the documentation? The cargo ships directly from the manufacturer (country A) to the consignee (country C). The seller (country B) arranges the sale.
    BL: The manufacturer is the shipper/exporter on the BL. Consignee is company in country C. (There is no switch BL)
    Commercial invoice: The CI is still switched. So the original manufacturer’s CI (for export from A) is switched with the seller’s CI (for import to C).
    Packing list: Is this just an extension of the commercial invoice? Would this be switched too? Or remain a packing list from the manufacturer?
    Is this possible?

  45. Hi Ngoc, Yes it is quite possible without any problem . Actual Shipper – Indonesia , Broker – Vietnam , Actual Consignee – USA.. Now what we have to do First BL will be prepare “Shipper : Indonesia and Consignee : Vietnam” then Switch BL (Let say Second BL) will be prepare “Shipper : Vietnam and Consignee : USA” and accordingly you have to issue invoices . Please note that BL no. will be same in both BLs only suffix will need to be placed (for Example First BL No. is 1234A then second BL No. would be 1234B) . Also there is one notable thing is please avoid to get switch BL from carrier directly , please involve freight forwarder to get switch BL . There is no rocket science in this and it is very very simple . Also the ISF in USA would be filled as per second BL & second Invoice .Please let me know if you have any query further .

    • BTW, I’m not sure that I get what you meant. “Also there is one notable thing is please avoid to get switch BL from carrier directly, please involve freight forwarder to get switch BL.” => That means we should switch HBL/not MBL, right?

  46. Hariesh Manaadiar,

    Could you please let me know if it’s possible to implement a triangular trade for actual Shipper in INDONESA-brocker in Vietnam-actual Cnee in USA? Cuz when publishing 1st Bill, Carrier informed us, USA Cnee must be shown on bill instead of Vietnamese.
    Even we told them this is the crosstrade and our Customer requested to hide Actual Shipper/actual Cnee’s information on 1st bill, we will switch bill in the Carrier’s local agent who commits to take responsibilities for that.
    Please let me know if there is any regulalions/policies which indicate that we have to show all USA Cnee’s information for the same case like this plz?

    • Both BLs (First BL & switch BL) need to surrendered. Without getting first BL surrendered no one can issue switch BL .

  47. Hi, we are a Dubai based company and I have sold machinery by L/C from Italy sent to Bahrain. Can I keep the same date of shipment from Italy is I switch the B/L in Dubai? I will change the shipper and consignee as well. is it possible?

  48. Hi, my company hq is located in one country and a branch in the USA. when the shipment leaves our HQ, we list the consignee as the USA branch but before the shipment arrives to port, we switch the consignee to the buyer. the reason for this is because the usa branch is responsible for invoicing the customer and collecting payment and then we pay our HQ. is this common practice and how would I explain this to future customers. Thanks

    • Hi Howard, this is common practice although it is the line’s prerogative whether they agree to switch or not and also your insurance company’s prerogative whether they will cover this or not..

      For your situation, a better alternative could be for you to issue an original bill of lading with consignee as “To Order of Shipper” and then once you know the final buyer the shipper can endorse this bill for cargo to be delivered to the new buyer.. You can also avoid the delays and costs for Switching the bill and also be covered legally..

  49. Hello, my shipment is using Seaway bill (non negotiable) ex USA to Singapore. Customer request to switch shipper, consignee and notify party at Singapore. Is this allowed? What is the procedure?

    • Hi, it is not possible because for a switch bill, there has to be an original issued first.. If you switch a SWB then there will be two bills of lading for which there is no originals required..

    • My shipment ETA Singapore soon (4 Nov) , on 27 Oct customer just request for switch SWB. They claim that they unable to do clearance using the existing shipper, consignee and notify party. Meanwhile at the origin my forwarder (BDP USA) already sent a request to carrier (K Line US) to request for switch but still couldn’t get any feedback. What else I can do now ?

  50. Hi

    Good Afternoon,

    Our esteemed customer has raised a query… Please guide.

    * 1st set of OBL issued with consignee as “TO ORDER” and they would like to issue 2nd set of OBLs as “TO ORDER”

    * 1st set of OBL issued with consignee & notify as XYZ, but they would like to release 2nd set of OBL consigned as “TO ODER”.

    Kindly guide, can we issue switch b/l in this case, since the documents are negotiable.

    Thanks in advance.

    Brgds/Santosh Pandit

    • Hello Santosh.. As I have written, any switch bill of lading issued is done at the risk of the shipper and shipping line.. Some of the lines will issue the SBL however based on the surrender of the full set of OBLs issued.. I am not clear on what is the difference between first and second set here “* 1st set of OBL issued with consignee as “TO ORDER” and they would like to issue 2nd set of OBLs as “TO ORDER””

  51. Dear Sir,

    we are in India and shipping consginment to Dubai. My customer asking for Switch BL. Asking to Switch BL as their name as shipper and their customer name as Consignee who is also from Dubai. What is the procedure

  52. Hi Sir,

    I am a freight forwarder in Qingdao but dont have any office in HK. How can I swtich the HBL in HK as per my client’s request ? is it possible to appoint an agent in HK to switch the HBL for me ? Which company HBL should be issued as the 2nd set BL, my company HBL or the HK agent’s HBL ?

    Please advise with thanks.

  53. dear sir/madam

    We are India based company, we get a recycling plant and machinery through UAE based company by switching their bill. In bill of lading number of packages are shown 5 while in bill of entry no. of packages are shown 7. Even the supplied machinery is scrap,old and used parts of a plant. Can we get details of first bill of lading and what kind of goods were loaded at uk port as shown in bill of lading.

  54. Dear Sir / Madam,

    we are a trading company based in Shanghai. We now have a shipment of goods which need to get from India (supplier) to Vietnam (customer) without coming to China in between. We were thinking about using a switch B/L in order to protect the identity of our supplier in India and to protect our customer’s identity towards our supplier at the same time. Using a switch B/L would be a first time for us; can we use a switch B/L legally? who would be in charge of arranging and switching this switch B/L? When will this switch B/L be issued; in India before shipment / during shipping / upon arrival at port of destination?

    • Hi Diederic… In India it is very normal for us to issue switch bills of lading …

      The actual shipper has to make a request to the freight forwarder, and the House Bill of lading can be arranged for a switch …

      The procedure is simple. You will first be issued a normal bill of lading, which you need to surrender , against which the switch bill of lading will be issued.

      However you should be aware that only the Shipper / Consignee / Notify details can be changed. Port of loading / discharge or destination cannot be changed…

  55. Sir,

    I am from a shipping company. In one of our shipments, we had issued OBL to our shipper after sailing of the vessel. The consignee is a Dubai based company and the shipment is going to Bangkok. The consignee now wants to switch the B/L from India.

    My doubt is that whether we can switch the B/L from India against surrender of the Original B/L which was issued from India itself (origin of shipment is India). If not, why ? Is there any problem in legal point of view?

    • Hello Suresh, a bill of lading can be switched anywhere as long as the carrier has an office there which can switch it for you.. This place can also be the origin port.. As long as the tenets of the Switch Bill are followed..

  56. Hi. My company is based in india. I have multiple suppliers in Europe from whom I will buy goods and I am selling to a single buyer in Singapore. Can I switch these multiple bill of lading with a single BL? Is it necessary to inform European supplier about the final destination ?

  57. Hi,
    My company (T) is in India. My buyer (B) is in Turkey and my supplier (S) is in Vietnam. My buyer B issues me an LC . I , in turn issue an LC to Supplier (S). Now S loads and ships the goods and send the documents to my bank through LC. In those documents, S is the shipper and T is the consignor. I opt for swtich BL and change the shipper to M and consignee to B.
    But what about the other document like Pre shipment inspection certificate, Phytosanitary etc. How do I change those ? If I ask S to do that, the. I have to disclose the details of my Buyer B.

    • Hi,

      Once you receive the PO from client you should read all terms and condition and plan accordingly , for Pre shipment inspection certificate you need to inform to client in advance that you will issue a certificate in your letter head as you will have a original certificate from supplier.

  58. Hi,
    I am a trader in India. I have a buyer in Turkey who issues me an LC. I am buying and shipping the goods from Vietnam. For which I have issued an LC to Vietnam seller.
    Now when the seller sends me documents, he will mention himself as shipper and me as consignee. For that I can opt for BL switch, but for other documents like Pre shipment inspection, phytosanitary (If reqd) etc, how can we switch those ? And for discounting my LC I need to have all those documents with me as the shipper and my Turkey buyer as the consignee.
    If I ask my supplier to do it in advance then he will get to know my buyer.

  59. My company (Trader T) in Hong Kong sources goods from a manufacturer (M) in Japan and sells to a customer (C) in India.
    We do not wish to disclose to M where we are selling the goods, nor do we wish to disclose to C where we are sourcing the goods from. Our understanding was that the first BL would have: Consignor: M, Consignee: T, PoL: Japan, PoD: HK and the second BL would have Consignor: T, Consignee: C, PoL: HK and PoD: India.
    However, we are told by our agent that the PoD on both BLs (original and switch) will be India – we want the first BL to have PoD as HK else M comes to know that we are simply trading the goods, which will affect our other business with them. Please advise if we have to re-export? or if we should use switch BL only?

    • Hello Hiten, you cannot amend POL/POD in a switch bill of lading.. only shipper/consignee/notify can be amended.. If the shipping line allows you to change POL/POD you maybe able to do it, but it might not be supported by your insurance company in case of any claims..

  60. Is there a problem if the cargo will be from China going to Vietnam, shipper is in Japan, normally, Japan forwarder issues the B/L, is there any problem if the B/L is issued by the same forwarder but in Hongkong branch? Any consequences on the side of the shipper? Your immediate reply is appreciated.
    Thank you

  61. Hi,

    We have a shipment from India to Ghana and the BL to be switched from Dubai. The customer wants to get more than one switch BL against one 1st leg BL. Is it allowed to issue more than one switch BL against one original 1st leg BL? This is a consolidation cargo.

    Also please give an idea about what are the changes we can made on a switch BL from the original 1st leg BL.


  62. What should be the date of Switch Bill of Lading, same day with the original one or the day it’s issued?
    Will appreciate your help!

    • Hello Cemile, an interesting question, and the answer is yes, the date should be the same.. As mentioned in my article, the only thing that you are allowed to really change is the Shipper/Consignee/Notify – all the rest cannot and should not be changed..

  63. Hi,

    Would it be possible to use a switch BL when sending cargoes to the US? I’m asking you this because we need to submit information through a shipping line for ISF purposes (company does not have a SCAC code) and my customer wants to hide the consignee information from shipper. I’m not sure if according to ISF, shipper has to be a company located in the same place as shipper.

    • Hi Mariana, could you advise us how did your cross trade shipment to NYC progress plz? I have the same case but the Carrier informed us the USA/NOTIFY PARTY must be SHOWN on 1st bill @@

  64. Hi,

    Please advise during a switch B/L can a customer requests to change the Line as well?? If you issue a B/L belongs to line A and from the switch B/L point, can we issue a B/L belongs to Line B. Appreciate you explanation in this regard.

  65. Dear Mr. Hariesh,

    We purchased goods from UK thru LC. We want to switch the bill of lading and sell it to another party. My question is , can we change the description of the goods like reference number and LC number as we sell it thru LC also.

    • Hello Roselyn, that would totally depend on the shipping line that you are using.. Reference numbers, LC numbers etc does not form part of the cargo description and a shipping line can very well refuse to show these details on the bill of lading as it is not part of the contract.. In a normal switch bill of lading the cargo details itself cannot be changed.. Trust this assists..

  66. Hi!
    My company brought a goods from China on FOB basic and selling it on CIF basic to our customer. We would like to shipped the goods directly to our customer at Italy. We understand that we should apply for switch BL in order to hide the detail of both buyer and seller. Could you explain us how is the procedures in details? Should we arrange the shipping line by ourselves since we plan the freight charges will prepaid in Singapore? We understand that we should surrender the first BL and ask the shipping line to reissue with second set of BL, but can we change the POL, POD, Shipping Marks and Description of Goods in the switch BL?

    • Dear Alex,
      good day,this is Dev from dubai working in Shipping Line, we can change the POL,POD but we cannot change the description of goods.

  67. I am an agent (intermediary), who bought the cargo from the manufacturer on FOB basis. I have received original B/L from the manufacturer. While the vessel is in the sea, I need to switch B/L to have my company as the shipper and the end client as the consignee and notify party? Would you kindly tell me the procedures in details

    • Hello Bassem, this is a classic switch bill of lading scenario.. Basically you can surrender the first set of original bills to the shipping line and ask them to reissue the second set as per your new sh/cn/no details..

  68. Hello Hariesh

    Thank you for this article, it is very helpful.

    I have a question regarding switching BL. Goods will be exported from China and going to USA. My company is in Hong Kong and I want to show my Hong Kong company as the exporter. The sales contract exists between my Hong Kong company and USA client. Can I simply switch BL at sea rather than importing into Hong Kong and then exporting again to USA?

    • Hello Mayur, you can show Shipper on a bill of lading as anyone.. If your requirement is only to show the shipper as based in HK but shipping out of China, then you might not need to switch the bill at all, you can issue same bill of lading directly.. However, if China as a country has any ruling that the shipper has to be shown as from China, then you may have to switch.. Also since now HK is part of China, don’t think that would be an issue.. Suggest you clarify that with your Chinese agent..

  69. Hi Hariesh,

    I am working on a project for which I wanted to use a Switch B/L but I am confused on how it works in detail even after reading your article.

    Situation is as follows:

    My company (AGENT) buys FOB from a factory in China (FACTORY) and sells FOB to a client in Germany (CLIENT).
    Agent does not want Client to know Factory.
    Agent wants to get the money from Client first against Copy B/L, then pay Factory against Copy B/L not having to pre-finance the order.

    I thought the process is as follows:

    Factory delivers the product FOB China.
    My thought was factory delivers the goods FOB to forwarder nominated by agent.
    Factory then gets original B/L from forwarder nominated by agent.
    Factory sends Copy B/L to agent to pay factory, only if agent pays factory, factory will release the original B/L to agent.

    Question 1:
    How can agent now issue a copy B/L to the client if agent does not have the original B/L yet?
    Factory would not want to send the original B/L before being paid in full.
    Agent would not want to pay the factory before being paid in full by client.
    But client would need a Copy B/L as a proof the product is on the ship in order to release the payment.

    This is a pretty urgent topic unfortunately and any help would be highly appreciated 



    • Hi Larry, in any transaction, the commercial trade terms used (Incoterms) will play a very vital role in the process of who pays who and at what stage.. If you follow the Incoterms between the various parties involved, you would be able to ascertain who should pay first..

  70. Dear Hariesh,

    Referring to this point ” They must have the written authority of the principal before issuing the switch bill of lading, if the issuing party is acting as agents for a shipping line or principal”, i would like to clarify who is the principal referring to?

    Gary Ching

  71. Hello aptrans impex

    If on OBL consignee is Indian Company & you wants to sell to your indian buyer. So there are two options.

    1. You can go ahead with the switch bill of lading
    2. You can sell the consignment to your indian buyer on high seas sale basis & there is no need to change obl. You have to make a contract with your buyer on 100 INR stamp paper. & date of stamp paper should be between ETD & ETA of the vessel.

  72. Hi, i haev a questions to ask regarding switch bill, i have a shipment for Chille from Pakistan. I’ll be using this switch B/L from Dubai. Now in Pakistan we are bound to consign shipment to local bank in D/P payment terms so in this case the payment will be secure. Now what i wanted to know that is there any kind of possibility / system from Dubai where we can consign switch B/L in favor of Dubai local bank, in such case where there is no pre-shipping docs as shipment is moving directly from Pakistan to Chille. Will Dubai bank can come up in such cases and give security for payment…… OR any other better solution where i can use switch B/L and get payment security.

  73. Hello,

    Can anyone help me out by explaining if there is a time limit as to when a BL should be switched? We have a consignment shipped and will arrive at the destination Port in 15 days time. Originals are with me and state me as ‘consignee’ but I don’t want to switch them until I receive 100% payment from the Importer. I am not based in the Importing country of the consignment and neither in the Exporting country.

    • Hello Yasir, if bill of lading is directly consigned to you and all released original bills are still with you, then you are the only party that can authorise release further.. Once you have 100% payment, then you can surrender the OBL to the shipping line and ask them to release cargo to whoever you wish to release it to.. You don’t need a Switch bill then unless you have any other reason for switching the bill..??

      While there is no specific time limit as such for switching the bill, obviously it has to be done before the cargo is released and also within the free days at port and with the line so you/your new buyer doesn’t incur additional charges towards storage/demurrage etc..

  74. Hi
    I am importing from Mauritius to India and selling the goods to my buyer in India by High Seas Agreement. Can I Switch BL such that my company name is in the seller on BL ? Basically my question is if I am in India and my buyer is also in India is it still possible to switch BL in same county?? Kindly advise. Thank you.

    • Hello, there is no limitation on where the switch bill can be done.. However, there are some shipping lines who might not allow it in certain countries.. So best option would be to check with the shipping line concerned if they will accept or not..

  75. Hi, We are in India and one of our customer have a shipment from HK to CMB, an LC shipment, firstly our customer need to open an LC on HK Supplier and the shipment will travel from HK to CMB, the BL should be to the order of Bank in India and Notifying Our customer . Our Customer now want to obtain Swift BL and follow the LC instructions as per Srilankan Client.

    Please clarify in such scenario, on what grounds Bank in India can send the Foreign exchange , wherein the goods never came to India.

  76. hi,we have a shipment from China to Beirut and the customer is in Dubai and he want to show Dubai company address in all documents and in Bill of lading also.Can you tell me how to make bill of lading details,because we are Dubai customer agent.

    • Hi Aaron, I am not sure of the other documents that maybe used at the load port or discharge port for clearance purposes because each country has their own procedures.. But on the bill of lading you can show your Dubai customer in the shipper column if he show wishes..

    • Hi Aaron, you can issue the 2nd set of B/L from Dubai provided that you have an agent in Dubai to issue the exchange upon surrendering the 1st set of B/L.

  77. Hi, we have a FCL shipment coming from China to Thailand. The goods are sold to Dubai while its on high seas. We do not want the buyer to know the shipper & the country of origin of the goods. We want to show shipper as our company & the origin as Thailand. Is it possible?

    • Hi Deepak, if the shipping line allows it, you can do a Change of Destination request with the line, discharge the container in Thailand, surrender the first set of bills of lading and get a second set of bill of lading showing Thailand as the POL and Dubai as the POD.. Whether your insurance will cover such action, will have to be identified..

  78. Hi This is Hira From Karachi Pakistan working in a shipping line, i want know that why some seller of the goods nominated any of Dubai receiver whereas shipment actually booked for Spain base port..As i discussed this matter with FWD agent he said just this is not switch BL.this simply dispatch to Dubai agent who endorsed the BL and then send to Spain agent in order to get delivery of the goods.My question is why exporter does not nominated spain agent directly and what type of BL is this

  79. Hi Hariesh, What about customs declaration in case you do 24H declaration (pre loading) with a POL / POD which won’t be the same when shipment arrived at POD under switched BL ? then import local customs won’t match previous 24h déclaration

  80. Hello Harish,

    It’s a great help that you are discussing and explaining these complex transactions here.

    I wonder if you could clarify how my requirement below would work in practical terms.

    I am based in US and operate a business of sourcing different goods from various overseas locations for supply to local buyers in the US.

    I have sourced a particular product from China for supplying to a buyer in US. The supplier in China has quoted me a FOB price and I have quoted FOB+markup to the buyer in the US. The buyer in US has informed me that they’d take care of the insurance and freight and customs clearance as they get preferential rates through their shipping agents. I would like to achieve the following:
    1. I do not want the buyer to know the supplier of the goods or the supplier to know the buyer. In other words, I’d like myself to appear as the consignor in the B/L. I understand that I can get the supplier in China to surrender the B/L and do a switch B/L to change to consignor to myself. Is this possible even when the buyer is handling the shippers?
    2. Can I amend the switch B/L to reflect a different commercial value i.e. FOB+markup?

    if the above is not possible, whet is the best way to go about doing this transaction. Basically, I would like to keep the identity of the buyer and supplier anonymous to each other and alter the invoice value to reflect the cost of goods plus my markup.

    Thanks in advance for your kind assistance.

  81. Mr. Harish
    I buy Shipment from Ukraine and want to sell it in turkey and I’m in egypt
    I want yo remove the shipper who is in ukraine and put my name instead and put my buyer as consignee in the switched Bl
    Is it possible and can I request that from the shipping line as I’m consignee not shipper in the first set of bl

  82. Hi thanks for this. My question relates to who can request a switch. You mentioned below that only the shipper can do so. However, what if the charterer is the consignee and he requests the switch. The change requested would be to remoe the original shipper and insert charterer as shipper. Obviously then consignee is a new party presumably the client of the charterer.

    Is this ok?

  83. I think in switched BL, only shipper / cnee & notify parties details are allowed to changed not POD and POL

    POD and POL should remain same.

    Please clarify if im not wrong..

    • Hi George, it is not necessary/mandatory (some lines do insist) but recommended so that the consignee at destination has a quick and easy indication of who to contact when the cargo arrives or to check the arrival of the cargo..

  84. Hello, This was really very interesting article. I seek your help in clarifying the below –
    End client (A) located in Vietnam has placed an order on client B located in Taiwan. Client (B) has placed the order on us (C) located in India. We in turn are sourcing the materials from our principal (D) located in USA. We would be shipping materials from D directly to A, but party B has requested us to mention consignee as party B but with port of destination as Vietnam. After materials sail we need to intimate B – who will issue switch B/L changing shipper from D to B, and changing end customer as B to A. My questions –
    1. Is the above procedure correct?
    2. When the first B/L is prepared, though consignee is a party in Taiwan, would keeping port of discharge as Vietnam be correct?
    3. When taking insurance – which B/L do I refer to, while submitting details to insurance company (first B/L or switch B/L).

    Thank you so much.

  85. As an agent for carrier, who supose to be issue SHBL, eigher sending agent or receiving agnet? as think it’s a triangle shipment buyer(UK) is the actual shipper and exporter(IN) files all paper with customs, exporter need HBL showing IN to US and consignee want SHBL showing Shipper(UK) to US.
    Pls advise…

  86. we want return cargo from Doha to Dubai. Actual shipped from Yantian. Can you please advice about the consignees in both Switch and original B/Ls. As per my knowledge i got by reading the articles in this site, we need to put actual shipper in Yantian as the consignee for switch and in original B/L we can mention the consignee in dubai.

  87. How do you know, then if a bill of lading is switched ?
    Would one thing be if it has no original collection date on it, but is signed by the lorry driver ? That the storage company is put on as “the shipper ” when surly it would be the owner of the engines and the person who contracted the shipment who should be the shipper.

    • Hi Clare, lorry drivers are not allowed to sign an ocean bill of lading.. Only the master of the vessel, the carrier (shipping line) or an agent of the carrier are allowed to sign a bill of lading..

      Anyway, you cannot tell if a bill of lading has been switched unless you have suspicion of the same and investigate quite a bit to get to the original details, which includes checking with the shipping line if it was switched, but they will not disclose details to any unrelated party..

      The bill of lading details are provided to the shipping line by the booking party in the initial phase and any switch bill of lading request should be sent by the shipper mentioned on the bill of lading..

      Please read for further information on this..

  88. Considering containe liner traffic, who is considered to be the “Principal”. authorised to request the switch? Is it the shipper stated on the B/L or th party booking the container(paying the freight). As these partys are not always the same?

    • Normally the switching is done to conceal the identity of the original shipper.. If someone needed to change the destination, then they can just change it as a normal Change of Destination..

  89. Very good article. My question is that in case the bill has bn switched
    and place of issue is shown as country x while place of issue in the original bl
    I.e. issued in the load port country y, and in the switched bl only shipper, place of issue is different , and basis switched bl , charterer has negotiated his LC ,
    and the original shipper is still holding the first set of bl, does he still hold the title of goods sold on fob basis and on whom he should raise his claim for the goods . For your information, the goods were discharged at the discharge port on the basis of loi submitted by the charterer. Original shipper is holding first set of bl for the last five months. Second question is that can the bl be switched without surrender of first original set or noc from the original shipper.

    • No Hari, the bill will not show anywhere that it is switched.. Confidentiality is the key to the issuance of a switch bill of lading, so it wouldn’t make sense in mentioning that the bill has been switched.. The bill will look like a normal bill of lading..

  90. Kim: thanks for the article on switch B/Ls I had never known that this was possible, if it were not for this article.
    One question that brings to mind if the original Exporter is not show or country of origin how would we know if the transaction is being re-routed to a place that U.S. Exporters are prohibited to ship to under Sanctions of U.S. Law?

    Elena S. Eaves

  91. I have seen the use of a switch bill to keep the name of the supplier from the name of the consigness is cases where there is an agent in the middle. However, I always wonder what is to stop the consignee from calling the shipping line and obtaining that information once they are a party to the BL?

  92. We sold some material to the client that was not available in stock so we had to source from our supplier.

    Terms of delivery are FOB Busan with the supplier and C&F Karachi with the client.

    In supplier’s L/C
    POL: Busan
    POD: Jebel Ali or Karachi

    In Client’s L/C
    POL: Busan or Jebel Ali
    POD: Karachi

    Our intention is to ship the cargo directly from Busan to Karachi. We only want to change the shipper/Consignee at the time of switching the B/L. In initial B/L, supplier will be the shipper and our bank the consignee. In the switched B/L, we will be the shipper and our client’s bank will be the consignee.

  93. If we have an L/C with our supplier(Korea) and an L/C with our client(Pakistan) while we are in UAE, will the liner issue a switch B/L if the cargo is being shipped directly our supplier to our client.

    I am in such a situation and the forwarders are refusing to handle the shipment. I am not sure if the Liner does not allow the above or the forwarders are just reluctant to handle such a case. Looking forward to your thoughts.

    • Hi Waleed, are you saying that you have two LC’s for the same shipment..?? Can you elaborate on original POL/POD and the new POL/POD..?? In any case, the switch bill cannot be used to change port of load/port of discharge.. It can be only used to change shipper/consignee/notify details..

  94. hi, was wandering if you have experiencing shipments from bangladesh origin? We have a shipment ex bangladesh to philippine wherein bangladesh side requires all BL consigned to bangladesh bank. The problem is in philippines, PH customs doesn’t accept any foreign consignee that has no import license, so we hold our order before this has been resolved. The option here is that once BL has been received and surrendered at philippines, we will switch BL and change to correct philippine consignee. Is this considered to be a switch BL process? Since OBL has been issued from the start. Please advise if this is valid? or other options to resolve

  95. Last october we ordered some equipments and parts from china and is now on shipboard, they haven’t yet issued us the b/l and we ask them for changing the consignee and they tols us that the shipping lines require us some fees. is that possible?

    • Hi Marinella, usually after a ship sails a bill of lading should be issued to the shipper within say maximum 72 hours for longer transit cargoes.. Not sure if you are the shipper and who is the “they” in “they haven’t yet issued us the b/l”.. If you are not the shipper and you are the consignee and expecting the bill of lading, then you should put pressure on your shipper who is supposed to collect the bill of lading..

      The shipping line completes their manifestation process say within 72-96 hours after sailing of the vessel and if after that there are any changes to the manifest details, then they will charge you fees for making the amendments.. It is a valid practice..

  96. Hello “Shipping and Freight Resource”,
    Hello David,

    thank very much for the quick responce.

    Okay I understand, you are all saying that I should make the booking of the carrier. But that is not so easy to negotiate. The buyer wants the container FOB China and would like to use his own carrier, He gets better prices, because the buyer makes much much more containers each year compare to us.

    A few more questions and thanks again for your help. 🙂

    1. When I am selling a container FOB, I thought that my buyer must book the carrier. Isn´t that the senses of FOB? Free on bord and than shipping on the buyer´s risk? But when I book the carrier, I think that I am going delivering all the way to europe. Isn´t that right??? (maybe a I am wrong)

    2. In case I sell the container FOB China and I am booking the carrier, how is my name coming into the BL. The factory is delivering the container to the port in China to my choice of carrier. What is the carrier doing with the old BL? How is my name coming into the BL?

    3. Is there a way that the buyer is booking the carrier, the factory is delivering to this carrier, but still there will be only my name in the BL?
    (I am the reseller (shipper) not the producer (exporter))

    I send normaly container from China straight to my warehouse, but know there is a bigger customer who wants the container shipped to him. A good think, but I must be carefull of the adress of the chinise factory. But I would love to deliver the container only to the habour and than it is done for me…

    Thanks for the help 🙂

    • Hi Mark, trust below explanation clarifies your queries..

      1) You are a trader buying goods from China and selling to a buyer in Europe
      2) You dont want your buyer to know who your supplier is
      3) Your buyer wants to buy FOB China and wants you to use his carrier

      As i mentioned earlier, this shouldn’t be a problem as this is done by all major traders around the world.. Your contract with your customer in Europe can be FOB Shanghai (for example) which means your responsibility is only to get the container on board the vsl at Shanghai.. From there, it will be the responsibility of your buyer..

      You maybe using the carrier nominated by your buyer, but that has no bearing on the bill of lading instructions that you will be giving to the carrier for the preparation of the bill of lading.. You can still be shown as the Shipper in the bill of lading.. The actual exporter will be shown in the customs documentation that will be passed in Shanghai before export.. That is the only place where your suppliers name will be shown.. But on the bill of lading itself, your name can be shown as Shipper..

      IF however, your shipment is covered under an L/C and the L/C stipulates the details to be shown on the bill of lading, then that’s a different story..

  97. Hi Mark,
    you have mentioned it’s under FOB. I would insist on your own carrier choice with whom you can arrange smoothly switch B/L.

  98. Hi there, I need some help please.
    I am based in europe. I would like to sell a container of goods FOB from a port in China to a other company in europe. The buyer is going to use his carrier. It is important to me, that the buyer do not see the name of the factory in china an the BL or where ever. How is the switch BL in my case working? I am not useing the carrier of my choice. So how could issue a Switch BL? Thanks for the answers…

  99. It’s really Useful Article for the Intermediaries, I am Currently sending one Air shipment from China to S.A and i m based in India. I have choosed the Switch BL option to avoid the disclosure of the Seller to my End buyer.

    I want to ask a questions ” Is it like the Chinese company send the goods on Airport and the 1st Set of BL issued to the shipping company in china and only after that they canrequest to switch Bl with my company information ?????????????

    Hope to receive the earliest reply !! Regards !!

  100. @ Bala, i’m tempted to doubt your story because a shipping company would know the tare weight of her containers. If by the time the containers are returned for boarding and they remain the same weight it then means that the net weight is missing. Therefore the gross weight which is usually written on the BL can not be arrived at, Hope you get my logic. Let me know your response please. I’m interested

  101. David, so am I 🙂 just change of shipper, consignee or notify.
    Bala, I don’t understand how it could happen in your case. Could you pls highlight the details?

  102. I have had experience on switch b/l. becarefull with the IMO CARGO and Switch b/l. There some shipping line that refuse to emit a switch under dangereus merchandise . I recomend, first of all, to contact with the shipping line before…. !!!

  103. My below experience will reinforce what has been said about SBL.
    Too make a long story short , 7 x 40 STC ROAD COLLIERS ,. and the b/l was switched , with a new POD , COMM DESCRIPTION , etc, while the seal remained intact , upon reaching new POD , all 7 x 40 was found to be empty. !!

  104. I feel, Switch BL is a “Must” for trading companies/intermediaries, who work to get business and are very often sidelined, as soon as the buyer finds the real manufacturer or vice-versa. Carriers and insurance companies, however, need to work together to create a mechanism to ensure that traders can protect their real source (Especially in 3rd country trade) in a manner which is safe for all parties involved.

  105. Often done by myself (container line agent) but just change of shipper, consignee or notify. Customers intend to cover up their sources against ultimate consignee.

    • Hello my quation is my comapny singapore and my supplyer dubai besad .. and he direact book contener india … supplyer sales contratct with singapore comapny .. india comapy purches contract with singapore comapny …. howe to swith b/l what is other way … we wating reply


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